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STRATEGICCOMMUNICATIONSPLANNINGYour comprehensive guide to effective strategic corporate communications planningAn eBook by Dave Fleet (

ContentsOverview .4The Content of a Communications Plan .5Context .7Set The Scene . 7Prepare Yourself . 7Environmental Scan .8Frame Your Analysis . 8Stakeholder Analysis .9Getting started. 9Questions To Ask . 9Objectives . 12What Are You Trying To Do? . 12Defining Your Objectives. 12Business Objectives Don’t Equal Communications Objectives . 13Use Your Analysis. 13What’s The Lasting Impression? . 13Strategy. 14What Your Strategy Should Include . 14Considerations . 14Audiences . 16Think Back . 16Be Thorough. 16Be Precise . 17Think Ahead . 17Announcement . 18Summarize . 18Keep It Simple . 18Make The Links . 18Be Honest . 19Messages . 20What You’re Doing And Why . 20What Will Change . 21Consider Your Objectives . 21Include All Of Your Audiences . 21Tactics . 22Staged . 22Strategic . 22Comprehensive . 22Tactical Options . 23Issues . 24Identifying Issues . 24Mitigating The Issues . 25Budget . 26Lots To Consider . 26Err On The Side Of Detail . 27Evaluation . 28Strategic Communications PlanningDaveFleet.comPage 2

Your Goal . 28Staged Measurement. 28Potential Metrics . 29Template . 31Conclusion . 32About The Author . 33Credits . 33Contributions . 33Images . 33Copyright Notice . 34Strategic Communications PlanningDaveFleet.comPage 3


OVERVIEWIs there such a thing as an ideal communications plan template? What would it look like?I've spent most of the last 10 years surrounded by communications and marketing plans.I studied them at university, proposing reasoned solutions (at least in my mind) to other peoples'problems.I worked briefly in marketing and communications in theprivate sector in the UK, before moving to Canada.Once in Canada I joined the public service and initially spent alot of time reading other peoples' assessments and edits oncommunications plans and learning from them whatworked, what didn't work, where people repeatedly left gapsand what made a good plan.Eventually I found myself in a position where I had theopportunity to provide input on communications plans myself. I even helped to develop training oncommunications planning. I then decided to move down from the macro level to the assembly line,writing plans and executing them myself.I‘ve now moved to the agency side, approaching the process from a different angle again.This variety of positions has given me an interesting perspective on communications plans and whatthey should look like.Strategic Communications PlanningDaveFleet.comPage 4

THE CONTENT OF A COMMUNICATIONS PLANLet's start by looking at the general sections of a communications plan.Here's what I've used when planning a communications initiative, in roughly the order I approachthem. Not all of them are always necessary. This is the broad list: Context what's happened before? What's the history? Environmental Scan what are the key factors that will affect your success? What is themedia saying? Stakeholders your stakeholders and their expected reactions. How you will manage them? Objectives what do you want to achieve? (should be clear, relevant, measurable. use theSMART approach if you like) Strategy where are you going, and why? Audiences who are the key audiences? Announcement given the strategy, are you making an announcement? What are youannouncing? Messages what are you saying about the announcement? Tactics how will you implement your strategy, both before, during and after the mainannouncement (assuming you have one)? Issues what problems may you have to overcome? Budget what will it cost? Evaluation how will you know if you've been successful?Strategic Communications PlanningDaveFleet.comPage 5

ANALYSISStrategic Communications PlanningDaveFleet.comPage 6

CONTEXTThe first section of a communications plan I work on is thecontext.Why?Because it forces you to do two things: Boil what's going on down to a succinct summary. Focus on the topic on which you're about to write aplan.SET THE SCENEThe ―context‖ section of your plan focuses on setting the scene. This isn't about details of anannouncement you haven't reached the part where you decide what your communicationsobjectives or strategy will be yet. This section is all about the background to your initiative.This should be a relatively easy part of your plan to write. If you know the subject this can prettymuch write itself. If you don't, you need to bring yourself up to speed. To write the context section,you need to know exactly what's going on.PREPARE YOURSELFA side effect of doing this first is that you can't launch into the other aspects of the plan withoutdoing your background research.Here are a few things to think about when you think about the context for your initiative. Note thatthey have an internal focus: What is the initiative about? What related announcements have you made? What are the timelines?o Is there an upcoming product launch/conference/deadline, etc? Are there any notable milestones? Who is involved? Who within your organization has a stake in this? What other organizations are involved in this? Do you have partners in the initiative?o Note: This isn't a stakeholder list - that comes later.Strategic Communications PlanningDaveFleet.comPage 7

ENVIRONMENTAL SCANWhile your context section is about looking at what you're doing and setting the scene, yourenvironmental scan is about looking externally at what other people are doing and saying.The environmental scan is more than just a media scan, although that is a major part of it. Youneed to go beyond just the media to look at the broader environment and how you fit into it.FRAME YOUR ANALYSISIf you've ever studied business, you‘ll know a PEST (Political,Economic, Social and Technological) analysis is a useful way tobegin to wrap your head around things. Consider the situationin each of these environments and the effects that they haveon the context of your project. Don't stick rigidly to thisformat, though.The SWOT format (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities andThreats) framework is another useful way to view things.Strengths and weaknesses have a more internal focus, lookingat your organization and your initiative. Opportunities andthreats look externally.Here are a few things to consider: What have your competitors done recently? What have your competitors done in relation to this topic? What's the legislative context? What are other jurisdictions doing? (This is especially important if this is a communicationsplan for within the public sector) What has the mainstream media said about this?o Which outlets (and journalists) have written about the topic?o What tone did they take? Positive or negative? What's being said online?o Who are the influential writers online on this topic?o How have they approached the issue?o What are the top search results for your company/product/topic? What economic factors come into play? What (if any) upcoming events/special dates might relate to this?Don't fill your environmental scan with long-winded quotes from articles - summarize the gist ofwhat they said. Page upon page of quotes doesn't help anyone.Be brief and to the point.Strategic Communications PlanningDaveFleet.comPage 8

STAKEHOLDER ANALYSISThis is the last of your initial 'setting the stage' sections.GETTING STARTEDYou've already looked at the context for what you're doing and the broader environment it fitswithin. Now it's t